For now, money is low. But what if you could spend less on marketing and triple your reach? And maybe even triple the number of phone calls you get? This is where brand journalists come in.
I’m not talking about newspaper reporters who cover marketing and communications. Those are just reporters.
Brand Journalists, as they are known worldwide, are writers who use their journalistic skills to tell brand stories — in newspapers, magazines, on TV, radio, and the Web.
They write for brands, not just about brands. They know journalism, they know marketing, and, above all, they’re fantastic storytellers.
Telling these stories as journalists means we’re not randomly slapping press releases on every media page. We do brand journalism by putting the word out there, in language that normal people speak, to help them make meaning of the bombardment of bombastic buzzwords that’s already busting up the pipe of mass communication. We help the consumer breathe easy.
Why again should you do this? Thanks for that question. Reread the previous paragraph. But, again, brand journalism is specialised storytelling.
“Too often, sponsored content reads like marketing copy — full of industry jargon, doesn’t explain anything, etc. Instead, it should be written in a journalistic style — lede, nut, inverted pyramid, outside sources. Good content, no matter if it’s editorial or advertising, finds readers,” says Josh Sternberg, director of branded content at NBC News and former senior editor of Digiday’s Content Studio.
In short, Brand Journalism is writing to tell credible, robust, useful stories that open up industries and sectors of the economy. It’s how we come down to street level.
Unfortunately, you’re probably coming very late to this party.
As Dan Lyons notes in his CMO’s Guide to Brand Journalism, “Cisco, Intel, Microsoft and Oracle all operate newsrooms. Maersk, the shipping company, has a news operation. So does Nissan, the Japanese automaker. LinkedIn has a managing editor. So does GE. Three big venture capital firms in Silicon Valley, Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and Battery Ventures, have hired in-house journalists from the Wall Street Journal, Wired, and Forbes, respectively.”
In Nigeria, I know a few companies who encourage their PR firms to do great brand journalism on their behalf. Nigerian Breweries is one. They, like others, are putting more marketing budget into storytelling and will probably do more in the coming months.
On the other hand, small companies with low marketing budget do it, though many of them think it’s a stopgap until they get the big budget to blow on multibillion naira ad campaigns.
Eventually, they’ll learn.
But this means you don’t need to be big before you jump on it. Just as we have multinationals running expansive storytelling operations, so do we see other companies outsourcing the service to brand journalism companies which employ trained journalists and marketing pros.
But hey, remember this: brand journalism is not the same as blogging about the colour of your new guest toilet or how cool your company retreat was. It’s about providing stories that customers are looking for, stories that’ll make their lives better and ultimately lead them to you.
So, maybe this year, you’ll try brand journalism. Best time to start, if you ask me. Because it’s incredibly cheap to do.
Luckily for you, this may also be the year of the niche site. People are beginning to have their fill of the Linda Ikeji and Bella Naija clones. Now, they’re looking for expert advice on home acquisition and mortgage. On healthy food and drinks for their kids.
Where is the best information on cars in Nigeria?
Who serves the best business mentorship?
What about electricity?
Where do we go for the most inspiring stories about creativity and creators in Nigeria?
Advertising still has a purpose, don’t get me wrong. But brand journalism gives it wings.
So, instead of running 30 ad insertions, maybe run 20 and spend the rest of the budget on brand journalism and see what happens. Maybe start with a simple blog.
Brand Journalism will get more stories with depth to the target audience and show your understanding of your industry. And because these are educational, entertaining, problem solving articles, readers are more likely to give your brand a shot and share your stories, too.
It’s like getting three ad pages for the price of one. And, unlike newspaper ads that run for just one day and disappear, brand stories once published, especially on the Web, live on forever.
This year, you should do something about your brand journalism problem. Seriously.
😉 to Red Bull.